Thursday, June 30, 2011


The essay below started out as an off-the-brain blogpost at my other blog. Then I thought that I would submit it to the powers that be at my church and see if they'd be willing to publish it in our monthly newsletter. There was contention about that, but the head honchos gave me the green light. I tried shortening it, and though that failed, I did, with the help of friends (especially Will), make the language a bit more neutral and the logic a bit more clear. It's still not perfect, but here it is:

Gasland, a documentary screened by the Brazos Valley Progressives on Sunday, June 12th at 2pm in the UUCBV sanctuary, explores hydraulic fracturing, "fracking," a procedure used to extract natural gas from the ground, often from beneath the water table. This fracking poses many problems. Some argue about the real and projected economic effects (positive and negative) of fracking, while others use the controversy surrounding fracking as a platform to rail about the United States’s insatiable appetite for energy. Gasland does something different. Its focus is on health and safety.

Gasland details the process of fracking, specifically documenting how fracking destroys the surrounding wells, making the tap water on which some people rely catch fire. The water is full of poisonous fracking chemicals which sicken and even kill people. Countless stories - on television, in newspapers, on the Internet, in documentaries like Gasland - tell the same tale. Poisonous drinking water, sediment in water reservoirs, and flammable water are just a few of the many problems people face as a result of fracking. The problem is local, too. In Fort Worth, Texas, air and water are polluted by poisonous hydrofracking fluids.

Citizens complain to local law enforcement and the media, but most find that fracking is currently supported by the legal system. On the federal level, for example, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 expressly excludes companies engaging in natural gas drilling and production from meeting requirements in the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law allows profit-driven companies to drill for natural gas with fewer regulations, even at the expense of human (and nonhuman) life. Presently, not a single state so much as requires gas companies to disclose the list of materials used in the fracturing process.

When citizens complain, often their only legal recourse is to hire a lawyer. The companies demand that the citizens prove their water has been contaminated, and on the rare occasion that the companies do eventually partially compensate these citizens, companies often require citizens to sign nondisclosure agreements so as to keep the problem quiet and contained.

The fact remains that to many people, money trumps life. Many believe that humans, and especially U.S. citizens, were given by God the right to destroy people's lives and livelihoods in order to cheaply acquire fuel. Here's a direct quote from Elizabeth Ames Jones, Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission: "it is morally wrong to deprive Americans the benefit of their God-given natural energy resources because a few special interest Grimm Brothers insist on perpetuating fairy tales.” I encourage you to watch Gasland and do your own research.

What can we do? If a company on your land or the land around you is going to be extracting or processing natural gas, experts strongly suggest you have your water source tested as soon as possible in order to get a baseline reading. That way, if your water is contaminated as a result of fracking, you'll be able to date the contamination and have stronger evidence for your case.

But this doesn’t solve the problem. Even those of use not directly affected can inform friends and neighbors. With enough people, an effective grassroots campaign can convince legislators to bring industry leaders to task. We must claim our right to know what is being put into our water.

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